We’ve featured Gunderson and Whole Trees Architecture here on Inhabitat before. The innovative firm uses unmilled tree trunks and branches as structural components of buildings, which is much more efficient than conventional building techniques. Because nature is the best engineer of them all, unmilled trees have the ability to support more than 50 percent more weight than the largest piece of lumber milled from the same tree. Keeping the structure of the tree intact retains the continuous fibers of the wood, which are weakened when timber is cut. It’s also much more sustainable, because it enables builders to use upper branches and Y-beams of a tree, instead of just the trunk. The firm uses mostly smaller, local trees, and they tend to favor those that have already fallen instead of cutting down healthy, living trees.
At the Angelic Organics Learning Center, Gunderson and his team used a combination of sustainable building techniques, including passive solar, whole trees, and straw bale construction. The structure is oriented toward the south with a large bank of windows that maximize natural heat and light from the sun in the winter. An eyebrow dormer window was added to the north side of the building to help prevent glare. The exterior envelope of the building is made from straw bale, an energy-efficient and sustainable building material that can be used in almost any climate.